Settlers scuffle with inspectors

2009-12-01 16:20

Jerusalem - Residents of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday scuffled with government inspectors who had come to enforce a moratorium on construction, a military official said.

"There were several scuffles between residents of various Jewish communities in Judaea and Samaria and site inspectors," a senior military official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "But the authorities will continue to work to apply the decision."

Army radio said incidents were reported in the settlements of Kiryat Arba near the southern city of Hebron, and the settlements of Karnei Shomron, Shavei Shomron and Revava in the north of the Palestinian territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week announced that his rightwing government would impose a 10-month moratorium on new housing starts in the occupied West Bank in a gesture aimed at restarting peace talks with the Palestinians that were suspended during the Gaza war at the turn of the year.

But the move, which came after months of US pressure, excluded east Jerusalem, housing already under way and public buildings and the Palestinians rejected the measure as insufficient.

The settler lobby, a potent political force in Israel, is virulently opposed to any restrictions on construction in Israeli settlements, which the international community considers illegal.

The Yesha Council, a settler umbrella organisation, on Tuesday blasted Netanyahu's decision and vowed to fight it.

"This decision threatens the future of the state of Israel and harms the elementary rights of more than 300 000 Israelis who live in Judaea and Samaria," it said in a statement, referring to the West Bank.

"We will continue to build on the land of Israel either with or without government permission," it added.